If you have spent any time on the internet in the last couple of days, you’ll surely be aware of the discussion regarding net neutrality (and the rather startling prospect of it being scrapped). But what is it? And why should we as marketers care?
What Is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the notion that internet service providers (ISPs) and governments who regulate the internet must treat all data on the web exactly the same without discrimination. Most importantly, net neutrality stipulates that ISPs and governments cannot charge users differently for using the same website, content, platform, application, or any type of online communication.
Why should everyone care?
With the scrapping of Net Neutrality, we will see a situation where ISPs not only provide us with access to the web, but also control what pages we can see (George Orwell was right all along!). We could be in a situation where, for example, you will have to pay a monthly subscription for YouTube or Facebook – or perhaps have to unlock features of Instagram with microtransactions. Without Net Neutrality, the flow and access of information online will no longer be democratic.
Why should marketers be taking note?
Let say you have a PPC campaign. Your ads are great and your keywords perfect – all directing towards a wonderfully optimised landing page – all is running smoothly. Suddenly, Net Neutrality is history and your customers click on your ad; their ISP throttles bandwidth to your site (making it unbelievably slow) because you can’t afford to be in their exclusive club – unlike your competitors.
Net neutrality is consumer freedom; If ISPs or governments get to choose which sites are available then thousands of businesses and consumers will suffer – goodbye to a level playing field.
If you’re outside the US (or don’t advertise there) you can wipe the cold sweat from your brow as this won’t necessarily affect you... Yet. However, these changes will set a dangerous precedent to the rest of the world – who could follow suit. If you’re currently in Europe than your internet usage is protected by the European Union’s Regulation on Open Internet Access. However, Brexit will see UK citizens exempt from the EU regulations – meaning our government has the option to emulate what's happening in the US.
So should marketers be concerned? Well as with all the best answers, it's presently an issue of 'it depends'. Our recommendation? Watch this space, prepare for the worse and hope for the best, and keep coming back to this blog for relevant updates on net neutrality and other marketing issues we're pondering.